Waley-Cohen pays tribute after death of Triumph ace Katarino
Owner Robert Waley-Cohen on Wednesday paid tribute to 1999 Triumph Hurdle winner Katarino, who has died at the age of 22.
The son of Pistolet Bleu began his career in France and won five races during his juvenile season for Nicky Henderson, culminating with victories in the Triumph and Punchestown's Champion Four Year Old Hurdle with Mick Fitzgerald on board.
Seventh in the Champion Hurdle behind Istabraq in 2000, he also won over fences and went on to run in the 2003 Grand National, unseating Fitzgerald at the Chair on the second circuit.
He left Henderson to come under the supervision of Waley-Cohen and earned a special place in the Cheltenham chairman's heart by bagging a brace of point-to-points at Didmarton and Paxford and two Fox Hunters' at Aintree's National meeting under his son Sam.
Waley-Cohen, whose favourite Katarino moment was his second Fox Hunters' triumph, said: "He got ill very quickly and died very quickly, but had a great life and I hope it happens to me like that! We had a lot of fun with him.
"I only got to have him as someone asked Anthony Bromley and Nicky Henderson to buy him a horse, but he rejected Katarino because he was too small to jump fences in his opinion, so I saw him when I was at Seven Barrows and liked him.
"Nicky still hadn't sold him and said he was going to run soon, so I asked when and he said, 'November 10', so I said, 'Well that's my 50th birthday so it must be destined'. And he won at Newbury that day and then on the Saturday of that week."
Asked how Katarino, who spent his retirement at the owner's stud near Banbury in Oxfordshire, compared with his other horses, who include Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Long Run, Waley-Cohen added: "He's right up there. He was a wonderful horse."
Katarino won eight of his 23 starts under rules and £181,190 in prize-money.